Yesterday at the park my 15-yo soccer-playing daughter challenged me to a footrace. Now I’m 52, but am still pretty fast and years ago I swore to her that for as long as I live I’ll always beat her in a sprint. My initial reaction to her challenge was no. Since my thumb surgery in October, I haven’t worked out much and, as a result, I’m in pretty bad shape. But it was like 70 degrees yesterday and I was wearing shorts so I agreed. We decided on an imaginary finish line on the brown grass 30 yards away, then there was a countdown, and we were off. For the first ten yards I felt strong, legs pumping on greased hips. But I sensed she was keeping up with me and I was just about to kick it into another gear when I remembered that we’d come to the park to exercise our Australian Shepherd. At the time of the footrace, the Aussie had been solidly run and was happily panting. And I’d forgotten about him until that moment when I was just about to kick my sprint into high gear. That’s when I remembered how Australian Shepherds are herding dogs. Over the years I’ve seen him literally tackle running children he was herding. Not in a harmful way, but out of instinct. He’d follow behind them and at the right moment, stick his muscular neck between their legs bringing them to a halt (usually tumbling to the ground). And that’s exactly what he did to me. When he did, everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. As I was airborne and out-of-control, I cursed him and prepared for my crash landing. This wasn’t going to be good. I may be 52, but I was booking it and was now a millisecond away from impact with the ground. My instinct was to reach my right hand out to brace myself–the hand I recently had surgery on. Then BAM-BOOM-CRASH-ROLL-ROLL-ROLL. I heard my daughter laughing. I heard the dog barking. I jumped to my feet holding my thumb and trying to hold in my scream from the pain. The pain I didn’t yet feel, but knew was coming. Only, it didn’t come. Somehow I’d once again walked away from a collision with the ground with only bloody knees to show for it. “I won,” my daughter said, beaming. That’s when I realized she has no reference point my fallibilities as an old man. “No, it was a tie,” I responded after catching my breath. “We’ll have a rematch in spring.” 

Without the Aussie.


Jim Mitchem

A Lesson in Fate

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.